The ritzy Miami hotel, SLS South Beach, has agreed to settle a discrimination suit with 17 Haitian dishwashers who say they were mistreated and eventually fired because of their background.
The allegations are from 2014 and, earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the discrimination suit on behalf of the former employees, according to the Miami Herald.
The suit alleged that the Haitian dishwashers working at the hotel were banned from speaking Creole at work, but a similar ban on Spanish among other employees was not put in place. They were also asked to perform duties other workers at the luxury hotel were not, like lifting heavy items up the hotel’s 13 flights, the Herald reports.
When one of the dishwashers asked management to fix the broken service elevator, a boss replied, “let those slaves do the work.”
The Herald reports, when the dishwashers reported the alleged abuse to human resources the entire dishwashing staff was then fired and replaced the same day with a staff “made up of almost entirely of white and/or Hispanic workers.”
“We advocated for a settlement of this kind because we thought it was necessary to compensate them for what they endured,” EEOC regional attorney Robert Weisberg told the Herald, noting the “severe emotional distress” the discrimination had on the workers.
James Greeley, chief legal officer of the hotel’s parent company SBE, told the Miami Herald that the decision to outsource the dishwashing department had a “perfectly legitimate business motive” and noted that not all the workers in the department were of Haitian descent.
He says the hotel has and will continue to employ Haitian employees in “customer-facing positions” and called the premise of the suit “illogical.”
According to the Herald, he said, “We’re an inclusive company which employs people of over 60 nationalities.”
In the settlement, the SLS South Beach denied all accusations but maintained “that settlements are favored over continued, costly and uncertain litigation,” writes the Miami Herald.
Greeley told the Herald that the company “made the decision to settle this in an amicable way for the benefit of our former employees.”
“At the end of the day these were our employees,” he said. “These are not adversaries.”
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